Musk Claims to Have Prevented Attack on Russia’s Fleet

Tech billionaire Elon Musk has claimed to have prevented a Ukrainian attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the port city of Sevastopol using his satellite communication system, Starlink. Musk stated that he rejected a request from the Ukrainian government to activate Starlink in the region, alleging that their intent was to sink a significant portion of the anchored fleet. His decision was based on the potential involvement of SpaceX, his company, in a larger act of war and escalation.

Musk denies intentional shutdown

Musk made these remarks in response to an excerpt from an upcoming biography about him published in the Washington Post. The biographer, Walter Isaacson, based on conversations with Musk, reported that Ukraine attempted a surprise attack on the Russian naval fleet stationed in Sevastopol in September of the previous year, using six small underwater drones loaded with explosives. According to the book, the military intended to use Starlink to guide the drones to their targets.

Isaacson alleges in the book that Musk secretly instructed SpaceX employees in September 2022 to deactivate Starlink coverage within a radius of 100 kilometers around the Crimean coast, preventing the underwater drones from reaching their targets. Musk refuted this claim on his online platform X, stating, “The mentioned Starlink regions were not activated. SpaceX did not deactivate anything.”

Despite Musk’s denial, the biographer Isaacson suggests that the Ukrainian military still carried out the attack. “When the underwater drones approached the Russian fleet in Sevastopol, they lost connection,” the book excerpt in the Washington Post stated. The drones veered off course and ran aground on the shore.

Ambassador allegedly threatened retaliation

CNN also reported on the incident, citing the biography. The motive behind Musk’s actions was reportedly his fear of nuclear escalation in the conflict. For example, Musk had conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, who explicitly told him that a Ukrainian drone attack on the Crimean region would result in a nuclear response.

Musk is the CEO and major shareholder of SpaceX, the space company operating the Starlink system for internet connections from space. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, SpaceX provided numerous Starlink terminals to Ukraine, waiving any fees for their operation. These terminals played a significant role in enabling the country to coordinate its defense while the Russian military targeted communication infrastructure. However, Musk and SpaceX’s President, Gwynne Shotwell, became dissatisfied with Ukraine’s use of Starlink for offensive military actions, with the company bearing the costs. Currently, there is a contract between SpaceX and the Pentagon, which books Starlink capacities.